12 April 2018

Choosing a Guardian for your Child

Choosing a guardian to care for your child in the event of your passing is a tough decision to make as a parent.  No one will seem like the perfect match – simply because they are not you.

Although it may feel unnatural, appointing a guardian who you choose and trust is so important.  By not exercising this right, you are essentially leaving it up to the Court to decide who the most appropriate person is to take on this role.

To help you with the decision making process, I have compiled three steps to assist you in choosing the right guardian for your child:

1.  Make a list of your values and beliefs and the people who align with those values and beliefs

  • What are your moral, religious and spiritual values? For example, you may wish that your child grows up understanding the importance of being polite, respectful and kind to others.  Who possesses those traits and would instil these values in your child?
  • What matters to you most? Consider your child’s upbringing. Is education most important to you?  Is your child creative and expressive, or a budding athlete?  Who understands your child and would help them reach their full potential?
  • What is their parenting style? Is it similar to yours?
  • Remember, a guardian doesn’t necessarily have to be a family member.

2.  Be realistic – consider the suitability of your proposed list of candidates

Your mum may have similar values as you, but if she is retired and enjoying a simpler, quieter pace of life, is she really the most appropriate person to care for your child?

Good questions to ask yourself include:

  • Are they physically, emotionally and financially capable of caring for your child? Consider their age, status in life, mobility, stamina.
  • Do they themselves have children? Would your child fit within their family?
  • Where are they located? Can they accommodate your child into their lives with housing, transportation and other basic needs?
  • Will your child be close to other family members and friends? How would relocation affect your child?  What are the schools like in that area?
  • What is your child’s relationship with the proposed candidate? Will their personalities clash?

3.  Have a conversation

Once you have picked the ideal person (or at least narrowed down the list), you should then have a chat with the proposed guardian about the appointment.

Openly discuss what your wishes are.  This will also give you an idea of whether or not they are on the same page as you.

It is important to give the proposed guardian the opportunity to consider the appointment and how it may impact on their own life.  The last thing you want is to appoint someone who has not been consulted, is unhappy with the appointment, and carries out the role as a mere obligation.

Once you have decided on a suitable person to be guardian (and they agree to take on the role), it is time to record your wishes and I would be happy to guide you through the process of preparing a will.

I can also assist you with preparing a guardianship plan, which is a guideline setting out how you wish for your children to be raised.  My clients often find comfort in having a guardianship plan prepared.  The plan can include your wishes about where your children live, people who are to be involved in your children’s lives, standard of living, lifestyle, education and family cultural/traditional values.

I understand that choosing a guardian is a difficult decision for a parent to make and hopefully this helps you with the decision making process.  The most important thing to remember is that your child is depending on you to plan ahead and do all that you can to ensure that they continue to have a bright, happy and secure future, if you are not around.  Having a will in place, appointing a guardian who you choose and trust, is the best way to ensure this.

If you would like to know more about guardianship, or to review your estate planning, please contact me.

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